The SARS-CoV-2 virus that brought the world to a near standstill has been mutating or changing since it was first detected. Doctors, microbiologists, virologists, and other experts have been swift to point out that all viruses mutate or change over time.
News of fresh outbreaks in many countries, new clusters, and shifting pandemic epicenters around the world keep filtering into the mainstream news. Plus, the shifting virus is keeping doctors, health workers, and scientists on their toes.
Coronavirus has turned out to be a nimble, though invisible, beast. At least in some circles, the new strains of the virus raise apprehensions that the pandemic may not yet be behind us.
An Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP Poll surveyed over 1400 Americans to gauge their thoughts on the subject. They were asked, “How concerned are you that the new COVID-19 strains will worsen the coronavirus pandemic in the United States?”
This was the response:
- 67% Concerned
- 27% Not concerned
- 5% Unsure
- 1% Did not answer
A majority, over two-thirds, are concerned. Since it was first discovered in Wuhan, China, the virus has acquired at least four known and documented variants. The first variant was detected in the UK, another in South Africa within a few months. A third strain was discovered in Brazil towards the end of the year in November.
The variant detected in India, the fourth so far, and named the Delta, is suspected of having caused the massive second wave of the pandemic in the country.
The fact that it is natural for the virus to mutate and form new strains is of little solace in the current situation. In the case of the coronavirus, some of the new strains have exhibited -
- increased transmissibility
- variance in disease severity
- higher resistance to treatment protocols
- affected vaccine effectiveness, in some cases
Often, the new strains have spread faster and farther than expected despite widespread testing, travel restrictions, large-scale shutdowns, and social distancing measures. This could mean that a quick return to the pre-pandemic level ‘business as usual’ may be hindered.
Vaccination is so far the only means available to arrest the pandemic. Even if vaccines are not 100% in preventing infections, numbers suggest that they can drastically reduce the severity of the disease and the chances of fatalities.
The Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP Poll shows that 65% of Americans are vaccinated, with 52% being fully vaccinated. But, over a quarter of those surveyed, 27% have said no to the vaccine.
Interestingly, those vaccinated expressed more concern about the new strains than those among the vaccine resisters and hesitators.
Among those expressing concern are 73% of those fully vaccinated and 81% with one dose of the vaccine. At the same time, only 37% of those with no plans to get the vaccine express concern about the new strains.
As America attempts to revert to pre-pandemic lifestyles, it's difficult to disentangle reality from alarm, particularly given the virus trajectory is as yet unknown.
Pakistan conceded that a blast on a bus carrying Chinese workers, which killed nine of them, could have been caused by explosives after having termed the incident an accident initially.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that initial investigations of the incident have "confirmed traces of explosives" and that terrorism has not been ruled out.
A total of 13 people, including four Pakistanis, were killed in the incident that involved a bus carrying workers of the Dasu hydropower project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The change in the Pakistani position came after China postponed an upcoming meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a $62 billion bilateral infrastructure and industrial development undertaking. No new date has been given for it.
Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan is personally supervising the case, and the investigations are closely coordinated with China.
President Joe Biden and outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to work together to defend against Russian aggression and stand up to anti-democratic actions by China.
Washington fears the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will hurt Ukraine and increase European reliance on Russian gas. The pipeline is being built under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
The United States wants Germany to find ways to ensure that Russia could not use the pipeline to harm Ukraine or other allies in Eastern Europe.
The $11 billion project, which is expected to finish in September, will bypass U.S. ally Ukraine, potentially depriving it of valuable transit fees.
Germany and the United States also disagree over the wisdom of partnering with China on business projects, temporary patent waivers aimed at speeding global COVID-19 vaccine production, and ongoing restrictions on Europeans traveling to the United States.
The country had ordered more of the U.S. vaccine, thus the shift, the health minister says.
Malaysia will stop using China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, the health minister said without specifying why.
Earlier, Thailand and Indonesia announced that many of their citizens would get a non-Sinovac booster jab if they had received the Chinese shot.
Malaysia's vaccine supply currently consists of jabs from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac. Single-dose vaccines, China's Cansino and the American Johnson & Johnson, were recently approved for use by the country's drug administration.
Under a renegotiated deal with Pfizer, Malaysia will receive 25 million doses between July and September.
The Dalai Lama eschewed comments on repression in Tibet and elsewhere in favor of a universal message on freedom of belief and mutual tolerance.
"Our various religious traditions have different philosophies and different practices, but all carry the same message—a message of love, forgiveness, contentment, and self-discipline. Even for those with no faith, these qualities—contentment, self-discipline, and thinking more of others than yourself—are very relevant," the Tibetan monk said in a videotaped message from his home in India.
"Religious freedom is actually an expression of freedom of thought," he said, addressing the three-day International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit held in Washington.
The summit addressed religious persecution around the world. It focused heavily on China's targeting of Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in a crackdown on the minority group and its language, religion, and culture that intensified in 2017.
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